by Kimberly Allen, RN
Does it seem to you like there’s been more reports in the news about Salmonella outbreaks over the last few years? That’s because the number of Salmonella outbreaks has increased in the US has increased significantly since 2009. In 2008 and 2009 there were 3 Salmonella outbreaks. Then in 2010 that number tripled to 9 and it has been increasing every year with 12 Salmonella outbreaks reported last year, 2012. It is barely 6 moths into 2013 and already 5 Salmonella outbreaks that are currently active.
The most recent announcements came April 25th from the CDC. There is a multi state outbreak of 3 types of Salmonella infections that have been linked to contact with various live poultry including chicks and ducklings. The types of Salmonella reported are “Salmonella Infantitis, Salmonella Mbandaka and Salmonella Typhinurium. On the same day they also issued a report of a multi state out break of Salmonella Saintpaul related to cucumbers. So far 73 people in 18 states have become ill with 27% of them requiring hospitalization. In early March the CDC also reported a continued outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg in 13 states. to date the number of people infected is 128 with 32 requiring hospitalizations. And pet owners beware there is also a Salmonella outbreak involving pet Hedgehogs. Yes, a strain of Salmonella Typhimurium has been linked to contact with pet Hedgehogs. In April the CDC reported that 23 people in 9 states had become infected with 7 hospitalizations. Of those infected almost 40% are children 10 years and under. Hand washing is crucial after touching Hedgehogs. However, Hedgehogs are not the only small pet that has been linked to several strains of Salmonella infections. Small turtles have also been linked to several strains of Salmonella including Salmonella Sandiego, Salmonella Pomona and Salmonella Poona. In early April the CDC reported that so far 371 people have become infected with strains of Salmonella in 40 states and the District of Columbia with 62 requiring hospitalization. At least 70% of those infected are children 10 years and under, and of that 70% 33% are children 1 year or younger. The CDC also states that small turtles are a significant cause of Salmonella infections in the US.
Investigators from the CDC and public health officials are using the “PulseNet” system to help them identify infections that may be part of these outbreaks. PulseNet is a “national network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories”. The CDC is responsible for coordinating these various lab’s that are from a wide variety of health departments ranging from local and state health departments to federal agencies including the USDA/FSIS and FDA. The labs with PulseNet perform “standardized molecular subtyping” otherwise known as fingerprinting of various food born diseases distinguishing the various strains of organisms including E-coli, Salmonella and Shigella as well as Listeria and Camphobacter. The information is then submitted to a data base at the CDC. These data bases can be accessed by all participants at anytime needed allowing for speedy comparison of the patterns.
Salmonella infections are generally highly contagious and spreads easily to others. The single most important thing you can do is practice good hand washing with soap and water. Hand sanitizers work when soap and water aren’t available but they should not replace them. It is also important to prepare and cook food properly. Never leave food sitting around either refrigerate or freeze in a timely manor. Avoid eating raw eggs, especially if they are not pasteurized. Store your meats and poultry as well as seafood separately from fruits and vegetables.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.